Saturday, May 23, 2015

Angel in the Bay

We had a visit last week from my college best friend Angel and her man João. They live in Houston, he is Portuguese, she is ridícula. :) Angel and I have been friends for 16 years and through thick and thin. I love when she visits because I feel so totally like myself! It was her birthday, and she got engaged, and we all had a great time hanging out.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Right and Ruined

I've been working on my next body of work, the ruin-ruin again-ruin again concept. Here is a painting that started as a colorful, abstract thing I really liked. Then I ruined it with some dried acrylic pieces attached with woven silver wire. Now I'll ruin it again with these strands of seeds (they're just placed on the painting right now so I can get an idea of composition).

After writing the other day, I went ahead and sent my notice to the Point to Point crew that I won't be able to help organize the next event. It feels good to prioritize my own creative work. As I said in my letter to them, strike while the iron's hot.

It felt good to step back. Even better has been making contact with two new artists in the neighborhood who want to get involved in Point to Point. I love how the ebb and flow of organizers and participants seems to be working as intended. In our original concept, Point to Point will hopefully become a self-sustaining event. Step up when possible, step back when needed.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

On Point

Once again I'm reminded that the things I'm good at aren't always the things I want to spend my time doing. Back in Moz, this was the conclusion I came to about writing proposals for development projects. I could write a kick-ass proposal and get projects funded, but I always felt sick and burned out (when doing the work, as well as in general). When you are self-employed, your work affects your person so much.

Now, I'm feeling sick and burned out again. When this happens, it's time for an adjustment. Sometimes it's in the life side, sometimes in the professional realm, more often both.

I've been doing a lot of travel recently - two weeks ago Rico and I went to St. John in the US Virgin Islands for the wedding of my longtime friend Mark (who was also one of our groomsmen, and met his girl when he went traveling after attending our wedding in Rio). I also went to Albuquerque to hang out with my dad for a lighting quick couple of days. Then over the weekend my best friend Angel came to Casa Cali with her man, and we celebrated her birthday and went wine tasting in Sonoma. In all, a solid period of vacation with a couple manic work days tossed in the mix.

It gave me time to think. I managed to figure out what's got to give, and now I have the task of making those changes. Not always fun, but feels so good afterwards.

Over the last year I've been co-organizing a community arts event called Point to Point Richmond. It has been an incredible grassroots experience, and I've met so many of my fellow artists here. I've put a huge amount of volunteer energy into launching Point to Point, and for that I have no regrets. But I'm at a point (ha, ha) where the balance is off, it's taking my focus and my time away from the work my gut is demanding be made. So I am majorly stepping back.

I feel strongly that it's time to be in my studio. I've received many custom requests for jewelry pieces and repurposed heirloom work, and I'd like to be able to say yes to those. I am also wanting to paint more, and do figure drawing, and experiments with enameling. I want to make weird work, wall pieces that I deliberately ruin, and then ruin, and then ruin again and see what's happened. I want to work with the rusted railroad steel I collected here at Ferry Point. Practice my sketching.

When I feel a gut-level pull to the studio that can't be ignored, I know it's not just about the work. It's connected to personal growth, relationships and decisions outside the studio. Diving into the art helps me take the steps I want to in life.

I want to have art dates with my friends. I want lazy weekends where I can sit around and do nothing, but also get laundry done and some prep cooking for the week. I want to train with Hilary for another 10k, and then possibly a 10 mile run next year. I want to hang out with family, and also to travel. Reclaim our yard. Design a churrasqueira with Rico. Take a nap every once in a while.

The exciting thing to me is that I believe I can do these things and also my studio work. Having the gallery open fits in, too, as long as I have some help. But all of this plus major community organizing does not add up. Actually, I guess it over-adds up because the feeling is a whirling, unfocused cloud of pending stuff. Overwhelm for sure. So it's time to take a step back, and deal with all the feelings and fallout that come with that. Hopefully it will be smooth, and if not, at least lead to some interesting art.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Ten years ago I started this blog. I quit my job. I packed my things into a massive truck, bought a plane ticket, and left Austin. It was all very planned, plotted out. I spent a month in Rio, then moved to Mozambique.

Then reconnected with Rico. Lived in Chimoio. Moved to Maputo. Got cats. Made amazing blog friends. Grew to hate development work. Got married. Started selling jewelry. Lost a cat and got more cats. Left Mozambique. Changed careers.

Moved to Point Richmond, with my mom as neighbor. Sold Casa Rosa. Went to art school. Set up a studio. Started a gallery. Witnessed Rico become a contractor and furniture designer. Attended Rico's citizenship ceremony. Spent some quality time with my dad. Made plans for Emilia to move. Got a tattoo.

It has been one hell of a decade. Beijos a todos.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Photoshoot with my Mom

I will be doing a photoshoot tomorrow (taking pictures of the crown I made, as worn by my client) and I needed to figure out what the light will be doing at 3:30pm. Yesterday my mom and I went for a walk as I scouted locations here in our neighborhood. She posed as my model so I could test the light and be sure the camera was working properly, and in the process I got some amazing photos of her. Here are a few of my favorites:

Every time I do a photoshoot I'm always so excited to see the results. I love taking portraits of people, and even more so if it involves them wearing my jewelry (my mom has on earrings I made using Mozambican blackwood and slices of dried acrylic paint...the necklace is from New Mexico).

Here's hoping tomorrow's shoot with the crown yields equally great results. Thanks for the help, mama!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Paradox of the Positive Front

Year one of my creative business was all about projecting a successful image. Call it "fake it 'till you make it", call it the Secret principle...the basic idea is the same: having an optimistic perspective while you bridge the gap between where you start and where you want to end up will lead to a positive outcome. Present yourself as successful, the world sees you as successful, treats you as successful...and hopefully one day your own perception follows suit as a new reality unfolds.

Over the past year I have been asked countless times:

- So, how's it going?
- Have you been busy?
- Are you getting lots of foot traffic?
- How are sales?
- Did you get a lot of people buying for the holidays?

Usually these questions have come from well-intentioned, curious people wanting to be supportive. Regardless of how things were actually going, or how I felt on any given day, the answer would always be the same:

- It's been going really well, thank you. (accompanied by a humble smile)

Sometimes this response felt totally accurate, other times it felt like the ultimate false front. But no matter. I would always answer with the same optimistic vibe of success.

I truly believe that projecting a positive image in year one was critical. Because here's the thing: MANY PEOPLE EXPECTED ME TO ANSWER THAT THINGS WERE NOT GOING WELL. Because it's hard as hell to make it as an artist. Especially when you take on a brick-and-mortar location. In a place with practically no foot traffic. And are only open three days a week. And your pieces are expensive and you are based in a community that's perceived as unable to support nice things. People don't expect you to succeed.

I could see it in their faces. People were ready for me to say that things were not going well. That nobody was coming in my doors. That I wasn't selling anything. That I wasn't enjoying success. That I wouldn't make it through the first year. It was almost funny to observe the surprise in their faces. "Oh really? Ummm, that's great!" And then this strange, subtle transformation as their perception of my business shifted from "just another struggling artist" to "wow, she's making it happen. I want to be part of this."

After a solid year of fake-it-'till-you-make-it, here I am. I had a good first year. I had sales. My guest artists had sales. My business has been a success.

I believe that my positive responses had a direct influence on creating all this. If I'd responded that things were slow, that I wasn't sure how I'd cover my expenses, that I felt discouraged and uncertain, that this was a tough occupation and a tough town to be in...people would have perceived me to be a sinking ship. And who wants to support some debbie downer business that is destined to fail?

But here's the thing: fake-it-'till-you-make-it creates an image of success that leads to actual success...but it can also work behind the scenes to cultivate a rotten sense of fraudulence, insecurity, and insatisfaction within the person faking it. At least that's how it's been for me. Not just here with the jewelry/art stuff, back in Mozambique it was the same thing with our consulting work.

There comes a point when you have to stop fronting and get real. Acknowledge your insecurities and weaknesses and frustrations. Voice your doubts. Truly evaluate how things are going, what is working, what isn't. Start being a little more authentic. If not with everyone who asks you how it's going, at least with yourself. The relentless positivity can quickly become denial if you don't let it fade away at some point.